Tuesday, August 26, 2014

August 25, 2014

So, California is hot and sunny with lots and lots of palm trees and lots of dirt hills.  It's funny but everyone seems to have boats and dogs.  The dogs just bark and bark and bark.  A day in the life of a new language missionary (Chinese) is 6:30 am wake up, work out until 7, shower, make breakfast, and change to be ready to study at 8 am.  From 8 to 12 it's personal study, then companionship training study, then companionship study, and last but not least, language study (1 hour each).  Then it's lunch and we're out!

I'm lucky I'm in a car.  I did an exchange with a companionship on bike and it was just hot... I was drifting off to sleep on the bike too (I don't know why I just fall asleep EVERYWHERE).  Mission life is very very tiring.  I'm pretty much always tired!  It doesn't help that I have to squint in the sun, so my eyes are pretty much already closed.  Or when I have sunglasses on, it's nice and dark... sleepy time. 

Anyways, there are also a lot of crazy people here.  Lots of drunk people that just kind of chill wherever in the hot sun, drinking.  It's interesting talking to them.

I've also learned to cope with rejection.  When I was biking, we got kicked out of this community by a grumpy lady who called us bozos.  Apparently we were going to run over the old people!  Another guy threatened to send his cute little poodle on us.  You learn to just laugh it off, it's pretty funny actually.

We met with this girl from France (parents were refugees from France).  She has TONS of questions, which we tried to answer.  Hopefully when she returns to France though, she'll be able to communicate with the French speaking missionaries there.  She's really interested though.  We brought her to this baptism of this 80 year old man.  She went to a baptism and that sparked her interest in the church, she had a very peaceful feeling.  It's funny, when the 80 year old guy came out of the water, (he's hard of hearing) he said really loudly, "WELL WE GOT IT DONE."  Everyone laughed. 

We have to get 10 OYM's (open your mouths - talking to random people) a day per person.  So when we were in this park, I tried speaking to this old lady who looked totally Chinese.  She understood absolutely zero of what I was saying.  Turns out she was Laotian.  Worth the effort though!  This park had a ton of people playing softball.  I wanted to get in and take a couple swings.

I picked up a simplified Chinese book of Mormon from Elder Heaton, a Chinese speaking Elder.  It'll be nice in my studies. 

Cooking is more annoying than I expected and takes way too long.  I gave in and got a "Magic Bullet" as seen in those online infomercials.  It is so fun.  I make smoothies in the morning now, really fast and easy.  I can pretty much blend anything.  For lunch one time, I blended zucchini, yogurt, peanut butter, and oats.  Not that bad! 

I had a companionship exchange for a night and a day.  Went to Miraloma.  I had heard it had some horses, but I woke up in the night coughing like a mad man.  I could hardly breathe.  Sure enough when the rooster crowed (literal rooster) and I woke up, I looked out the window and there were tons of horses [which I’m allergic to].  It's funny because in that area and Norco, CA (which is also called "Horsetown USA), there aren't paved sidewalks.  Just dirt paths for the horses.  So that was interesting. 

The past two P-Days, we've played soccer.  It is SO fun.  I'm turning really dark from spending so much time in the sun.  We have our nice little World Cup going here in Riverside.  It's so hot though, the fluids go in my mouth and come out my skin (so much sweat...).  That's really what I look forward to every p-day.  We might even start playing Thursday mornings bright and early at 6 am. 

A lot of these places look like we're in Mexico.  So naturally, most people speak Spanish (and less English).  So I've brushed up on my Spanish.  I walk up to people and say, "Necesitas ayudar?"  They're very nice.  In fact, the Latinos are a lot more humble and welcoming than other people.  They're so nice in fact, that we got offered three cervezas in a day.  Naturally to be polite, we took them (not).  Cerveza is beer, so we declined. 

In this part of California, there's this thing called Harvest.  They hold it a couple times a year, and the group rents out Angel Stadium and you pay $10 to be saved.  You just have to walk across the field.  Pretty easy.  So when we ask people if they go to church or are religious, a lot of times, they say they go to harvest. 

One thing that's weird is wearing shoes in everyone's houses.  I still feel rude even though everyone does it.  I guess that's just how they do it here. 

Missionary work feels a lot like home teaching, we go to people's houses, sit with them and talk about their life, cool things that happened, and share a lot of spiritual thoughts.  A lot more straightforward than I thought it would be. 

Johansen and I have had the Wicked and Frozen soundtracks going for a bit.  We jam out in the car when we're driving places.  It's fun. 

Sundays are the busiest days in our schedule.  We have meetings from 7 am until 1 pm.  Very tiring.  I have to work to stay awake! But it's all worth it because Sundays are also, "P-Day eve."  And P-day means SOCCER (it's really just so fun!)

I'm meeting lots of cool people here.  We ran into this guy watering his lawn the other day who's a basketball trainer.  He trained Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, and Brandon Jennings (is that his name?) when they were young.  Very interesting.  Old people can be interesting too, just a bit less focused.  We've met a couple senile men who have lots and lots of stories. 

Mission life is hard but rewarding.  It's hot here, but at least we have AC in the car!

Breakfast foods

Little fruit stand

Lunch (with Taco Bell sauce)

Dirt sidewalk for horses

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

August 18, 2014

We said our goodbyes at the MTC and I had to wake up at 3:30 am to leave.  It was tiring only on 4 and a half hours of sleep.  Thank goodness for four-wheeled luggage, because my bags were so full.  We traveled to the Salt Lake Airport and I was out the whole ride – very tiring time. It was interesting using the phones at the airport – pay phones.  But at least I got to talk to people. 

The first thing I noticed when we landed in Riverside was the pollution – a nice beautiful blanket of smog covering the area.  We got off the plane and met some other missionaries.  I thought they were greeting us, but they were on their way home.  Two years – that's a longggg ways away.

I met the mission president, President Mullen and his wife.  They're very nice people.  I also met an Elder from Hong Kong who was leaving for home.  Apparently there's an area in the mission with 80% Chinese people.  I'm excited for that.

I rode with President Mullen to the mission office.  There are a ton of palm trees lining the streets.  There are also these huge mounds of dirt (they're actually hills), that don't have any trees on them because we're in a desert – very weird terrain here. 

The mission home is part of a church building.  I got in and found my bike under “Elder Dyer”.  Turns out I won't really be biking my first transfer though! Anyways, I passed their driving test in a truck, which was a very elementary driving test. 

In my first interview with President Mullen he asked me if I was flexible and if he could trust me.  At first I thought he meant physically flexible.  Turns out he meant just flexible in different situations. That was embarrassing.

We had training and orientation all day and I was so tired.  But we pushed through.  It was pretty much training, eat, training, eat.  We met our trainers at the end.  I got put with Elder Johansen, who is 21 months into his mission.  I'll be "killing him" at the end (when he "dies" and goes home),m which is kind of weird to hear.  But he's a great guy, very tall.

We're driving, so we loaded the car and went first to get our OYM's.  OYM's are "open your mouths" where we talk to random people, ask if they need help or anything and if they want to learn anything.  We have to get 10 per day so we went to a parking lot of a grocery store.  It was fun talking to random people.

Turns out I live in a homeshare rather than an apartment.  It's where church members have missionaries staying in their homes.  I'm with the Webbs and it was great, but when I got to the door I heard dogs barking. My heart dropped [due to my dog allergy].  But it's been okay so far, so we'll see.

The first morning was fun – woke up, ate breakfast, worked out.  We had some lessons.

(sorry I'm like out of time so I'll write faster next week)


Q: will you get ipads?
A: In the fall, and I'm English speaking right now [as opposed to Chinese speaking]

Q: how many Chinese speaking missionaries are there? Will you still get to study Chinese every day?

A: Yeah there's like three [in addition to me]. One is training the new one and the other is with an English speaking companion.  I still get language study.

MTC district before saying goodbye

Elder Peterson (from Shanghai), Elder Dyer, and Sister Lew

Elder Dyer with President and Sister Mullen upon arrival in Riverside

Bags and new bike

Elder Dyer and Elder Johansen - new companions





Scene from Riverside (note dirt shoulder where people ride horses)

Scene from Riverside

Scene from Riverside

Scene from Riverside

Scene from Riverside

Friday, August 15, 2014

August 11, 2014

It feels weird having my second P-Day in 3 days, but life is good.  We taught our "Chinese investigator" again this week, turns out our teacher Brother Wong is from Singapore (not Taiwan).  So Elder Li will likely see him on his mission.  He gave all the Elders in my Chinese district, who asked for one, a Chinese name.  It was cool.  I'm still waiting on my Chinese name tag.  Maybe I'll get it in California, or not at all.

On Sundays, we have personal and online study time.  That means a lot of binge watching mormon.org videos and other various church related media.  There are a lot of different kinds of Mormons out there. 

Sunday leadership meeting was spent discussing the people in our zone, and how we can better serve and love them.  I have a stronger understanding that leadership is about service and love, rather than exercising authority.

During church, we had 70 people! Of which only 27 were actual missionaries (my age).  The rest were senior missionaries, who apparently love to see me on the stand (just kidding).  They were probably there because President Marion (our branch president) was speaking.  He's a wonderful speaker.  Up on the stand, I can see all these old people just nodding to sleep, it's pretty funny.  Pres. Marion thanked all of the senior missionaries for leaving their... grandchildren behind.  I was not chosen to give the random missionary talk, so I'm getting out of the MTC with a free pass. 

During our priesthood meeting, President Marion had me and Elder Belmonte do the ordinance teaching.  We were supposed to teach on anointing the sick and blessing them.  We read out of our missionary handbook how [to do it], then he told us to put the book down and demonstrate it, which we, unfortunately, could not make happen.  Then he "snubbed us to the post" [chastised us]. There are a lot of these phrases that President Marion uses that, frankly, go right over the head of most of the missionaries (international missionaries and American ones). 

He talked about how missionaries have to be prepared.  Apparently there's a missionary that came into the MTC in April.  She's been in the hospital since them and is from some island in the pacific.  To contact her mother, the Stake President has to go three or four islands over in a boat and bring her to a place with internet.  I don't think these places are very internet connected.  Elder 'Otuafi, my old companion, had to go to an internet cafe (or internet "caff" as he called it) to use internet and Facebook.

President Marion said he'd been visiting her every day and an apostle of the lord visited her on Sunday.  He doesn't know if she's going to make it.  It was an incredibly humbling experience.  So, the moral of the story is, I have to be more prepared. 

President Marion is a great teacher and branch president.  He's been a mission president twice and was the president of the New Zealand MTC before. [He shares] lots of great nuggets of wisdom.  During his talk, he didn't use a single note.  He was looking up the whole time.  He's also hilarious, all the little stuff he does, like wink at you, and say his one-liners.  He always wants us to "enjoy the MTC food he cooked for us" and he wants us to know "how the cow eats the cabbage" (which I still haven't quite figured out).  The way he says it just makes it hilarious, I'm constantly laughing when he's around. 

During a leadership meeting, he told us a story about being a good missionary.  He said one of his counselors has a horse that keeps bucking people, a "stupid horse."  According to him, you have two options when you have a "stupid horse."  You don't give it to your friend because then they have to deal with it.  It costs the same amount to feed a stupid horse as it does a good horse.  So your two options are, sell it to the glue factory, or shoot it and bury it in the yard.  I couldn't stop laughing...

Oh and I saw Angela Schoenhals while I was on a temple walk!  I saw someone that looked familiar and saw her name tag and was like, "Angela??"  We hand shook, because missionaries can't hug. [It] felt a bit weird but that's cool.  She's doing great, hopefully learning a lot of Italian.

One of the coolest parts of my past 3 days was giving a priesthood blessing to Sister Kalonihea (from Tonga) before she left.  When I said the blessing, I felt as though there was some sort of surge of electricity going through my body – amazing experience.

I leave tomorrow (the 12th of August) at 4:30 am from the MTC.  My flight leaves at 8:35 am for Ontario, CA (?), which I have never heard of.  [I’m] anxious but excited.  The biggest lesson I learned here at the MTC was teach with love, love the people, love your companion, love everyone.

Chinese language district and teachers

Elder Dyer and Branch President Marion

Elders Li, Dyer, Andino, Li, Itufia, Belmonte, and Pring

Elders Li and Dyer and Sisters Kolanihea and Mahe

Ties worn in the MTC (none repeated)

Sister Schoenhals (center) and Elder Dyer (second cousins)

Friday, August 8, 2014

August 8, 2014

One of my teachers said something that kind of hit home.  A mission is just one drawn out goodbye.  First you say goodbye to your friends and family, then to your MTC companions, then to your MTC teachers, your MTC Branch Presidency, your mission companions, your mission president etc.  I've had to say goodbye many times this week.

The first two from my district were Elder Palo and Elder Timmerman, They left early Tuesday Morning (4 am).  Then my wonderful companion, Elder 'Otuafi, left.  He was supposed to leave last Wednesday, but a security guard came first thing to our class on Tuesday, and pulled him out, saying he was leaving now.  It was abrupt and super sudden.  We had to snap a couple of quick pictures, and off he went.  Elders Mendez and Valles were next, they left Wednesday to their respective locations (Salt Lake City Central, and Las Vegas).  So it's just Elder Li and I holding down the fort.  The room feels empty without our old roommates, but my bed doesn't squeak anymore (like it would every time Mendez would move in the top bunk).

We had to say goodbye to our investigator, Jonathan.  I'm going to miss how sincere and enjoyable he is to speak with.  He's a great guy.  His baptismal date is August 22nd.  He talked about what a wonderful job it was "acting" at the MTC (as an investigator) because he gets to just be himself.  Anyways, it was great getting to know him, and not just teaching him lessons, being his friend.

One interesting comment he made was that our church does not have a pastor or preacher standing up there each Sunday preaching to the congregation – it’s regular members speaking and sharing their experiences, their struggles, their joys.  It's like we're all one big family, enjoying each other's presence.  He really liked that feeling that he gets from church each Sunday.

Thank you mom and dad for the 3 dozen donuts.... For trying to get me fat!  Don't worry, I shared them with my zone, they really enjoyed them too.  Zone duties are time consuming. I have to leave class a lot and orient new missionaries.  But it's fun!  It makes me seem old when I'm instructing new missionaries on the MTC and answering their questions.

18 year old missionaries fresh from high school (I guess I'm also 18 but still...) are pretty immature.  It seems like they're all trying to impress the sister missionaries and it's like.... dude... relax.... I'm glad I did a year at college (even though it means leaving my Miller [dorm] family behind).  It's hard to believe all my Brownies [Brown University classmates] are going back in a month (or less).  It makes me miss them, but [I hope they will] have a lot of fun without me!!!

Our Sunday big fireside devotional was by the President of BYU, which to be honest, was quite dry.  I got Chinese translation and that was really the exciting part.  Frank, the translator is from Taiwan and he puts all these funny voices on.  He also sometimes just stops translating and then says they're talking too fast. 

Later that night, we watched a movie where Elder Holland said we're so lucky to be born now, with modern medicine, transportation, and communication.  He also commented on us having 90,000 missionaries (soon?).  He said, "we've never had 90,000 of anything.  His candor is pretty funny.  Elder 'Otuafi made a funny comment after, he got some candy and [Elder] Valles asked where he got it.  He said there's a big box of candy in the basement, you put your money in, and it comes out.... (a vending machine!)

Brother Villanueva talked to us about what kind of missionaries we're going to be.  We already committed 2 years, might as well make the best of them.  Like the Apostles in the bible, dropping their fishing nets to follow Christ, he said we have to "drop some nets too" (which ones, I don't know… yet).  When we talked about the Word of Wisdom (the church's "health code"), Elder Palo said, "eat apple and you'll be happy...".  Elder Palo's so funny, he was acting as an investigator, talking about tithing, and asked why the blessing in the Bible says, the windows of heaven will be open unto you, rather than the doors of heaven.... Apparently it's because there are a lot of windows in a house, and not a lot of doors. It was funny.  'Otuafi is always teasing everyone, he told Mendez, “Maybe in Tonga he could play rugby with primary school kids.”

Before Sister Xia (the other Sister Training Leader) left, she asked me for a priesthood blessing.  I had never given one before so I hope she felt at peace with what I said.  She wanted me to do it because I'm from China.  She wanted to be able to leave her worries from home behind.  It was a spiritual experience for me nonetheless.

Zone leadership struggles finally surfaced when I had to 'intervene'(?) with some Elders harassing another Elder, physically and emotionally.  I talked to their district leader about discussing with them, and hopefully it's all gone now. 

Highlight of the week was finishing up with ADL (advanced language) classes (which are in English) and being TRANSFERRED to the Chinese building.  They just got us and we left, but that means P DAY ON MONDAY TOO. [Elder] Li and I got put in the 9th week of Mandarin for missionaries.  We thought it would be super hard, but they're learning some pretty simple grammar stuff, stuff that comes natural to us.  Like using the word "zai", as in "zai wo de pang bian."  Anyways, my teacher is from Guangzhou, China, converted in China too.  Apparently that happens a lot.  Who knew?  It feels weird to be suddenly speaking Chinese all the time. 

I had to pick up more new missionaries, a really diverse group.  We have missionaries from Italy, Austria, Samoa, Sweden, Peru, and Kiribati. It's fun getting to know all the new people!

Part of the Chinese schedule is 7:30 am gym time – rough... But I met an Elder Pierce from MIT.  Nice to see another East Coast-er.  He's going to Singapore, Chinese speaking.  He had met Sam Church from Brown.  Apparently Boston has tons of undergraduate members.  Gym with the Chinese district means no soccer (nobody wants to play) and just volleyball, which is surprisingly not that bad - pretty fun sport. 

Li and I taught our first lesson to a Chinese investigator and the Chinese went more smoothly than I had thought.  It came kind of natural and I surprised myself sometimes - gift of Tongues!  But Chinese investigators do ask harder questions.  He commented on why we're called “Elder” (laughed too - dad you were right). 

One of the members of my Chinese district got a package from his aunt, in an XBox box. He was flaunting it to the other missionaries and some actually thought it was a real Xbox, not really though.  During the last hour of one of our classes, we taught the two and a half week Chinese missionaries.  I'm glad I wasn't stuck with them, they're learning but it's hard. 

When we had branch presidency orientation with the new missionaries one of the Elders from Peru came in crying.  He had just spoken with his mother and she had just lost her job and was in the hospital, apparently diagnosed with cancer (it wasn't that clear).  I took him aside and told him how much we love him, we're here for him and that his family will be watched over while he's gone.  He was raised by a single mother and is an only child.  It broke my heart, but I shared with him a scripture, D&C 100:1.  Hopefully that helps him. 

Today I went to Salt Lake to visit temple square because I'm an "international missionary."  It was fun. The temple is beautiful inside, beautiful paintings on the wall beautiful interior design.  It's clear where the older parts of the temple are.  The Celestial room was beautiful, it wasn't that white but it had so much detail.  One of the leaders showed me where Jesus Christ stood in the Salt Lake Temple when Lorenzo Snow was there.  It was a very spiritual experience.

We saw so many weddings at the salt lake temple; apparently they have 50-70 weddings a day.  It's funny to see how nervous these couples are as they are getting married.  We visited the tabernacle and the conference center as well – great experience.

After, we went to the LDS humanitarian services.  It was so cool. There were people there from 30 different countries (most not Mormon) helping put together clothing packages like you see on TV, the care packages.  We helped doing some quilting stitching.  It's amazing to see how much the LDS church loves everyone; [the church helps] out in so many places, especially with non-members. 

I have an extra P-day this week, on Monday, which is exciting (because I’m on a new schedule).  Then I’m off the California on the 12th (Tuesday).  If you want to send me letters, you can do it through dearelder.com. They print out the email and give it to you the next day [in the MTC or mail it for you to my mission – there is a small charge].

Elder Dyer and teacher

District at the Provo Temple

District photo

Donut delivery from parents, courtesy of Aunt Annette

Elders Li and Dyer at Salt Lake Temple (see newlywed couple in background across reflecting pool)

Elders Li and Dyer with practice investigator

Elder Li and Dyer at Salt Lake temple visitors center

Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders

Quilting at the LDS humanitarian services

Before the departure of Elders Timmerman and Palo

Salt Lake conference center

District and teacher

Salt Lake tabernacle (of choir fame)

Weddings galore at the Salt Lake temple

Friday, August 1, 2014

August 1, 2014

It's been more than a week at the MTC (though it seems like it's been longer).  Life is different, very regimented with a strict schedule to follow from 6:30 am to 10:30 pm.  But my companions make it fun.  I lost Elder Valles to Elder Mendez from Honduras who just transferred into our district.  He's serving in the Salt Lake central mission, Spanish speaking.  I'm actually learning a lot of Spanish from him. I translated a phrase with the word forgiveness that he didn't know how to say in English.  'Otuafi keeps it fun with his jokes and laughter.  One thing that's great about him is that he's always smiling.  Having Mendez is nice because we can play soccer together (the heat kills though).

We were talking about where we would have our "mission batch reunion" from our district.  We jokingly said Samoa, Elder Otuafi looked up from his writing, frowned, and said... Tonga...  He wasn't lying when he said Tongans (and other pacific islanders) love their volleyball.  He spikes super hard on the court, I’m glad I was on his team.  'Otuafi is a super faithful missionary.  He loves rugby and got a professional contract to play in Australia but he said he puts God first. He was less worried about it than I was.  He said instead of rugby, he wants to "get a life.  When he played in high school, he got "chased out" of his high school's team because he was too rough.  He got picked up by another team and was their team captain.  He forced his team to fast and pray before each game, and they won "everything".  Pretty cool stuff. 

As a zone leader, I have to do missionary training, orientations, and interviews.  For the interviews I feel pretty inadequate, I've only been here for a week and I have to sit down with district leaders and ask them about their companionship, companionship inventory, and fix any personal problems before meeting with the Branch President about them.  You'd be surprised about the issues we have to deal with sometimes, sleeping on time, getting to class on time, etc. – especially when I'm guilty of them.  I have to work on being a stronger example!  I try to be very humble in these interviews. 

One of the Elders I interviewed had already finished college.  Talk about having more experience and wisdom than me!  He was very nice though, it made it a lot easier.  He's going to Mongolia.  It's interesting.  Apparently the Mongolian missionaries (who left on Sunday) cannot openly proselyte in Mongolia.  They travel in their P-day clothes without name tags ("civilian" clothes, no suit and tie) and cannot go through customs or security with their companions.  They go there as English teachers and then if a member in Mongolia brings them investigators, they can teach it in the churches there.  It's a very fragile relationship.

One of the most significant messages I've learnt from my time here is to love everyone.  I literally love each of my companions and those in my district AND the people I'm teaching.  I have to teach lessons every day, to teachers, and this past week, to an actual person investigating the church.  I feel like gospel and the Mormon Church can bring so much healing and joy to people's lives.  I really want to share that happiness.  One of my investigators was in a pretty deep hole with drugs, alcohol etc.  She has changed her life and left all of that behind by living this message of happiness we want to share as missionaries. 

During one of our gym times, I wore my "Brown Class of 2017" neon green shirt.  It (soccer) was pretty easy, dribbling around a bunch of Americans, but very hot, it sapped my energy.  At the end, one elder asked me about the shirt, why am I class of 2017.  I had to tell him that I'd already attended a year of college.  (so I'm silently 'repping Brown).  Mendez is called "Elder Messi" by the other missionaries because of his skill and because he wears a Barca Messi shirt.

For church, Elder Timmerman and I have to sit up on the stand looking over everyone.  It's hard not to fall asleep (Dad, I feel your struggle).  We have to plan talks each Sunday because the Branch Presidency will pick us "randomly."  I didn't get chosen.

Having E. 'Otuafi as a companion is great, he's a scripture encyclopedia.  You ask him for a reference, and he'll recite it to you.  Timmerman is great at it too.  The one thing I still find a bit weird is that everyone prays before they eat in the cafeteria.  Growing up in a place NOT the MTC or BYU where everyone is Mormon has really only had me saying prayers to bless food at home or at church functions.  Here everyone does it.  Elder Palo (Timmerman's companion) does not have totally fluent English but he is hilarious in his Philippine accent.  When we were walking by the computer lab one day, he stopped, pointed at someone and said, “eh you're using Facebook ah?”  I guess you had to be there.  When we were in the cafeteria the other day, he pointed to his coke and said, “I love iced tea”.  It looked like tea, but as you probably know, Mormon's don't drink it.  We laughed and laughed and laughed.  I'm so happy here because everyone is so nice and inviting.  My district especially is hilarious; we might laugh a bit TOO much. 

During a huge devotional with all the missionaries, they offer translation and headsets for that.  I asked for Mandarin Chinese and the lady didn't want to give it to me.  She said they were only for people from outside the U.S.  I told her I was from Shanghai and she said we don't have a lot of Japanese headsets.  I guess Shanghai, Japan is a place I haven't heard of.  All jokes aside, she did eventually give me the Chinese one and I got a lot of vocabulary from listening in Chinese.  I saw an Elder Dyer in the devotional, he's from Bountiful Utah.  Do we know him?

The interesting thing in the devotional is watching the sign language missionaries when we sing.  When they say the words, "Alleiluah" (how do you spell that?), they clap. 

Elder 'Otuafi loves to say something absurd, wait a second, and say in a booming deep Tongan accent, "I'm just jooking" (pronouncing the o's).  He also loves to say, "shush your mouth" (pronounced shoosh). 

During another gym time, unfortunately everyone went to play volleyball.  It was only me, Mendez, and Elder Marah, from Sierre Leone (he has lived in Utah for 4 years).  Back in Africa, he had to walk miles for water every day, so he is really good at carrying things with his head.  He walks back to the residences with his scriptures on his head every day.  'Otuafi said back in school, every Friday his school (the Mormon school) would fight the public school.  He said they would fight until the police came!  However, when someone brings a knife, they're "wussies"... but if they do that, you run... to the police...

One of my teachers, Elder Villanueva is great (well both of them are great, the other one is Sister Dietz), he really wants to make us better missionaries.  He gave us some good advice, we should asked deeper questions like why do you think Jesus Christ offered to sacrifice himself for us, rather than do you understand?

Elder Timmerman and I picked up new international missionaries and did some introduction things.  We kind of balance each other out.  I'm more outgoing in these leadership role situations while he's more reserved.  Although I think I’m talking too much, I should probably try to get him more involved.  Elder 'Otuafi's brother came to the MTC and looks very similar to him, but with not as good English.  There's another Elder Li from Shenzhen, China. He says there are a ton of members there. Oh by the way, an Elder Li got transferred to advanced language and I now have a three way companionship again, he's from Fremont, and is going to Singapore Chinese speaking.  He went to UC Berkeley for a year before this.

During dinner, Mendez and 'Otuafi will get apples all the time.  'Otuafi will make references to the fall of Adam when he ate the forbidden fruit and say, when Mendez takes the first bite, "you just made Adam's transgression" (shaking his head).  It's too funny.  I'm going to miss them when they leave, because I'm here for an extra week!  They send out Riverside missionaries together, and there's a batch leaving next week.

Yesterday we had "in-field orientation" with trainers that were some of the most charismatic people I have ever experienced.  They really pick qualified individuals for this.  We learned about how to involve members in both finding people interested in the church and finding referrals.  It's really all about love.

During the orientation for ALL new missionaries in my zone, I did a similar introductory exercise as with all the international ones.  I told them that they are all meant to be here and there are people waiting for them to bring their love and their message of healing in the mission field.  Someone made a joke about having someone "always following them" (their companion of course).  Afterwards they met with our branch president, who really loves us.  He's got white white hair and uses phrases like "snubbing someone to the post" and "how the cow eats the cabbage" that frankly, goes over the heads of the international missionaries, and the US ones...

The point is I'm very happy, love my companions and am enjoying this time with them.  I can't wait to get to California, though!

Classroom antics

Elder Dyer in front of the Provo temple

Elder Dyer's district in front of the Provo temple

District handshake (part one)

District handshake (part two)

Sharing treats

Elder Dyer at Provo temple

Elders Li, Otuafi, Dyer

Elders Dyer and Mendez

Classroom humor

Elder Dyer studying...

Elder Dyer really studying...

Elder Dyer really really studying

Classroom with Elder Otuafi

New "Tri-panionship" - Elders Dyer, Otuafi, and Li

It's been a long day...

It's been a REALLY long day

District photo

District photo

Classroom treat break

In front of Provo Temple